Both sides in the Russia-Ukraine war have used deepfake media depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in attempts to spread misinformation, and while some of the efforts have been removed from social media, online security officials fear other efforts won't be discovered in time to avoid harm.
Many Ukrainians were able to quickly spot and ridicule a deepfake video purporting to show Zelenskyy — his head appeared to look distorted and too large for the body shown, reports the BBC.
In it, the image, shown behind a podium, tells Ukrainians to put down their weapons.
Zelenskyy, in a video posted to his official Instagram account, called the fake video a "childish provocation."
YouTube and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, have taken down the video.
Meanwhile, another fake video, in which Putin appears to be declaring peace, has resurfaced on Twitter.
The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications has issued a warning that the Russian government may try to use such videos to convince people in war-torn Ukraine to surrender.
Shayan Sardarizadeh, of BBC Monitoring, who analyzed the Zelenskyy video, said that as it was "neither well made nor believable, the Zelenskyy deepfake is among the worst I've seen."
However, he warned that the fact that the video was "made and shared during a war is notable. The next one may not be as bad."
Meta security-policy head Nathaniel Gleicher tweeted in a thread that the company had "quickly reviewed and removed" the deepfake video of Zelenskyy for violating its policy against posting manipulated, misleading media, and noted that the video had "appeared on a reportedly compromised website and then started showing across the internet."
Nina Schick, author of the book "Deepfakes," told the BBC that the Zelenskyy video was easily spotted and removed because it was crudely made, but "there are so many other forms of disinformation in this war which haven't been debunked."
"Even though this video was really bad and crude, that won't be the case in the near future," she added, warning that such videos could "erode trust in authentic media [because] people could start to believe that everything can be faked. It is a new weapon and a potent form of visual disinformation, and anyone can do it."
According to a Witness.org program director, Sam Gregory, the Zelenskyy video was a "best-case deepfake problem" because of its poor quality.
"It was debunked by Ukraine, and Zelenskyy had rebutted it on social media, so it was an easy policy takedown for Facebook," Gregory said.
However, journalists and human-rights groups say they're concerned they may not have the ability or the tools to debunk better-crafted deepfakes.
Detection tools can be used to analyze movements in videos or the process used to create them, but even those tools can be faulty, as in the case of a real video last summer of a senior politician in Myanmar. Debate remains whether the video of his confession to corruption was real, forced, or fully faked.
"The lack of 100% proof either way and people's desire to believe it was a deepfake reflects the challenges of deepfakes in a real-world environment," Gregory commented. "President Putin was made into a deepfake a few weeks ago and it was widely regarded as satire, but there is a thin line between satire and disinformation."
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